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What Does an Electrician Do? A Complete Guide

what does an electrician do

Did you know that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 700,000 jobs out there for electricians as of 2021?

People hire them to help them with in-house projects. Large companies hire them to help build houses.

But what does an electrician do? What exactly do they do with lights and outlets?

If you’re curious, keep reading. We’ll explain everything you need to know about electricians and what they do.

What Is An Electrician?

Electricians are tradesmen and women. They design, install, maintain, and repair electrical wiring systems.

Electricians may work in houses, commercial buildings, industrial settings, and more. They can work on small outlets or large machines.

The work they do depends on their expertise and specialization. Electricians may work on small, intricate structures. Or, they may devote their time to large, hefty pieces of equipment.

What Does An Electrician Do?

Electricians fall into two main categories:

  1. Residential electricians
  2. Commercial electricians

Within each of these categories, there are more specific specializations. However, these are the main two that you’ll come across.

Each of these positions comes with its own set of responsibilities and expectations.

What Are Residential Electricians?

You’re likely more familiar with residential electricians. These experts come into your home to fix lighting, panels, surge protectors, and more.

Residential electricians get training in their line of work. And they went through hours of training and documented work experience to master residential systems and prepare for licensing.

What Are Commercial Electricians?

Commercial electricians also get training in their line of work. This training focuses on commercial buildings’ wiring and electrical systems. This includes shopping malls and office buildings.

They often work on a larger scale to keep commercial buildings in operation. They also require documented work experience to master their work and prepare for licensing.

Residential Electricians Vs. Commercial Electricians

Residential and commercial electricians perform the same basic tasks. But, there are five major differences to consider:

  1. The services they offer
  2. The equipment and supplies they use 
  3. The technical skills they have to learn
  4. The size of the projects they take on
  5. The standards, compliance, and regulations they have to follow

The basic terms of each job may seem like they’re the same. But, these experts are performing two different jobs.

1. The Services They Offer

Residential electricians, also known as domestic electricians, focus on residential electrical installation. With this comes a lot of responsibilities:

  • Reading and following technical blueprints
  • Maintaining electrical appliances and fixtures
  • Diagnosing and repairing issues with electrical systems
  • Inspecting and rewiring residential electrical systems

Commercial electricians perform many of the same electrician duties. However, they do these tasks on a larger, more complex scale. 

Commercial electricians follow official blueprints. They use these while installing wiring systems, machines, control panels, and more. Commercial electricians are more likely to work in large, public buildings.

These electricians may also handle permitting for their city. This is especially true if they live in one of the major cities across the United States.

2. The Equipment And Supplies They Use

Residential and commercial power supply require different levels of energy production. Residential electricians may deal with single-phase systems that range from 120 volts to 240 volts. On the other hand, commercial electricians may handle three-phase systems with anywhere from 120 volts to 480 volts.

Commercial buildings require more power. Most of these buildings have increased industrial electric loads.

Because of the difference in power needs, there are differences in equipment and supplies.

Commercial electrical systems require cables that have more insulation and sheathing. These more durable cords can handle the demands that commercial buildings have. For example, these cables can handle higher voltage and current flow.

These electrical systems for commercial buildings also need to be more accessible in case of an electrical failure. Commercial systems fail more often and need more repairs because of their high demands. (cf

Commercial electrical systems are easy to access. They have control panels so electricians can fix problems as quickly as possible.

3. The Technical Skills They Have To Learn

The basic electrician training behind residential and commercial electricians is the same. Some electricians may have the same beginning. They could have similar electrician degrees or trade school certificates.

However, the specialized electrician training differs.

In general, commercial electricians have to get more training. The three-phase systems that these electricians use require more knowledge and training to set up and install.

Commercial electricians learn a lot. For example, they may learn how to balance voltages, create phase diagrams, manage control systems, and more.

4. The Size Of The Projects They Take On

Commercial electricians handle much bigger projects than residential electricians. However, not all commercial electricians have to work in large buildings. Some of them work for large homes/estates and apartment buildings.

Because of their training, commercial electricians can complete residential jobs. But, the opposite is not necessarily true. Although, residential electricians can always get more training to get other jobs.

5. The Standards, Compliance, And Regulations They Have To Follow

Electricians must follow many standards to comply with their license and the city and state they’re working in. With each installation, there are regulations in place. They tell the electricians what cables, insulation, and fittings they can use.

Commercial electricians have even more stringent standards. All electricians have to consider safety codes and insurance. In California, electricians start as electrical trainees.

As for licensing, electricians in California must hold a C-10 Electrical license issued by the Contractor State License Board or the Department of Consumer Affairs.

If you want to become an electrician with a C-10 Electrical Contractor License, one option for you may be:

  • To be registered as an electrician trainee (
  • You need to prove that you are enrolled in a state-approved school like InterCoast Colleges to register as an electrician trainee. 

After completing formal training, you will work on accumulating 8,000 hours of on-the-job experience. After taking and passing the state examination, you may apply for your license. But, you can work as an electrician trainee under a C-10 licensed contractor to gain work experience and accumulate your on-the-job experience.

How to Become An Electrician

So, what does an electrician do? Well, it depends on their training and education. But, it’s more than that.

There are plenty of options for formal education out there. But you’ll still need work hours on top of this education to become an official electrician.

That’s why we offer our electrical technician training program as a hybrid. You’ll be able to work around your busy schedule. Apply today!

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